Photo by Stefan Radtke
As the design director of venerated Blue Hill at Stone Barns, arguably the most important and celebrated farm-to-table restaurant in the nation, Laureen Barber is responsible for not only the look of the restaurant and its corresponding café and shop but for marketing the whole Blue Hill empire (the first Blue Hill restaurant is in New York City). One can safely say that Barber, a co-owner of the restaurant, has succeeded not only in making the restaurant stunning but in ensuring that every design detail is spot-on: The menu, the promotional material, the shopping bags all have the brand’s stamp on them.
Twelve years ago, the Barbers—Executive Chef Dan (Laureen’s brother-in-law), President David (Laureen’s husband), and Design Director Laureen—opened a restaurant in Manhattan that served just-picked ingredients grown on nearby farms to its diners. The restaurant, Blue Hill, is an ode to the Barber brothers’ grandmother’s Blue Hill Farm in the Berkshires, where the boys spent their childhood summers. Blue Hill and its mission “to improve the way America eats and farms” resonated so profoundly in the restaurant world that the Barbers were invited by The Rockefeller Group to submit a proposal for a restaurant to complement the Rockefeller family’s sustainable farm and education center at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, an 80-acre parcel of land on the Rockefeller estate. Other (more established) chefs and restaurateurs also submitted proposals. They lost out to the Barbers. Thanks to Blue Hill, Westchester is today a foodie destination.
“People are coming here from far and wide—that wasn’t happening ten years ago,” Barber says. “Hopefully, we are changing the way people dine.” And after they enjoy their knock-your-socks-off dinner, perhaps diners might want to take a little souvenir home with them. Barber’s newest venture is the development of a line of Blue Hill at Stone Barns-branded products to be sold online and in Bergdorf Goodman. “People visit from all over, and there have been so many requests to take something back home with them,” she says. A well-designed doggie bag won’t do.